Singaporeans - we’re really a unique species with our odd habits and traditions, many of which were passed down from our parents and grandparents. Remember how our mothers used to say, “If you don’t finish your rice, your boyfriend/girlfriend will have a lot of pimples”?
Little did we know, these old wives' tales played a part in benefiting our environment. Case in point: we finished all the food on our plate for fear of eventually getting married to someone unattractive, preventing food wastage from thousands of Singaporean kids. Bet you never thought of it this way!
Singaporeans deserve waaay more credit than we give ourselves. Here are 10 super Singaporean times we were eco-friendly without even trying!
1. Wrapping vegetable bouquets with newspapers
My grandma did this all the time when I was younger, but I never asked her why. It wouldn’t be surprising to see her come back from the market with a trolley full of newspapers… and vegetables wrapped in them.
When I grew older, I found out that our grandparents believed that wrapping vegetables in newspapers kept the vegetables fresh longer. I don’t know if there's any scientific evidence to back this claim, but this definitely recycles newspapers!
Here’s a big thank you to the pioneer generation for saving our environment.
2. Keeping an inventory of DIY ‘Songkoks’ made out of spare flyers
Of all the tips my grandma gave me, this was the most useful. All you need is paper - it doesn’t matter how big or small - and you can fold a handy box to hold bones, orange peels and sunflower seed shells at the dinner table before tossing them out.
It might not look super aesthetic, seeing all your rubbish on the table, but at least you wouldn’t have to stand up and walk to the dustbin in the middle of a good meal (just think about the trouble). What’s more, you can reuse pages of old magazines!
Plus, in celebration of Earth Day 2016's theme Trees for the Earth, UOB has an awesome initiative to encourage everyone to use songkoks to not just throw their waste, but also to grow their own plants. Look out for more information here!
3. This 2-second transformation from newspaper to windshield wiper
As anyone who does housework regularly knows, cloth leaves unsightly streaks and fibres on the surfaces of windows when we clean them. Newspapers, on the other hand, never fails to leave us with super polished windows and mirrors.
Newspapers also do away with the need to rinse a cloth after cleaning the windows. Saving water AND recycling newspapers - 2 thumbs up!
4. Telling aunty "don't need plastic bag, thanks!" when we buy one of these:
We have learnt as kids that dumping small candies and other items in our bags is easier than having your hands full with multiple plastic bags, which we often throw in the first dustbin we see anyway. We don’t need that plastic bag for a small packet of M&Ms - keep your hands free for more important things like looking for your EZ-link card when the bus arrives!
5. Reusing bread clips for EVERYTHING ELSE but the bread loaf
I wonder which ingenious Singaporean first came up with the following life hacks, but it's cool to know that everyday items as inconspicuous as bread clips can be reused. If you've been throwing these inconspicuous little items out with your trash, it's time to stop adding to the pile of non-biodegradable rubbish. Here are ways for you to utilise unused bread clips:
To organise messy wires
In the mess of wires behind every TV set, it’s painful to remember which wire belongs to the HDMI cable, the XBOX, and the cable box - the list goes on. #firstworldproblems, I know. Many of us turn to bread clips as shown above, to label these wires easily.
It’s a neat trick, and you’ll never again resort to the trial-and-error method of turning on each switch to see which is connected to what.
To fix broken slippers
The morning seems great, the weather is fantastic, and you’re going out to meet your buddies. Then you stumble and the next thing you know, one of your slippers is hanging precariously by the strap.
And this is why you should always have a bread clip with you.
6. Placing wrongly printed papers beside the printer for reuse
There are times when we spot a horrifying spelling error on our research paper - right after we click the ‘print’ button. Then we scramble to cancel the document, but once the beep sounds, we know it’s too late.
Thankfully, we’ve absentmindedly made it a habit to put these "flawed" papers next to our printer, and use the blank side to print our not-so-important documents in future. All because we’re too lazy to walk to the dustbin, to dispose them. But if laziness helps us save and reuse paper, I say go ahead and be lazy!
7. Having a sharp eye for kope-worthy cutlery
Using plastic cutlery isn’t environmentally friendly, but there are some instances when we find ourselves guilty of using them - like when we crave for some of that oh-so-sinful dark chocolate ice cream from Awfully Chocolate. The plastic spoons they use are so sturdy and fancy; don’t judge me, but I always bring them home for future use.
It’s a waste to throw away such kope-worthy cutlery after finishing our ice cream - especially when we can use them again. Having a spare spoon can come in handy for home packed lunches, and reduces plastic waste as well!
8. Handing down textbooks to save money
My math textbook has a name on it. No, it’s not my name and no, I didn’t steal it - this book was passed from my cousin to her brother, to my sister then to me. This book probably has more history than a history textbook. Save paper and money - that’s how we roll.
I know some who burn their textbooks and papers after a major exam such as the O Levels. Other than for the 24 hour ‘wow’ factor on your snapchat, burning your books isn’t doing good for anyone. If you don't have a younger sibling or cousin you can hand your books down to, you can get rid of your books in a more meaningful way by donating them to NTUC’s end of year Share-A-Textbook project! Look out for news about Share-A-Textbook around November/December each year.
9. Camping for the elusive Karang Guni to make a quick buck
We all need to thank the creator of the karung guni occupation - how else can we get rid our unwanted items in our home and make some cash? These karung gunis prevent our unused items from being thrown away as trash.
If you’re curious, head down to Sungei Road Thieves Market, where many karung gunis sell their finds, allowing your old items to find a new lease of life! Things that can't be sold here can be sold to a waste recycling company.
Check out this interesting article about how a “Karung Guni Queen” raised over $16 000 from upcycling trash!
10. Leaving our clothes out to hang dry
You won't see this anywhere else in the world! Source
If you've watched enough movies, you'll realise just how much electricity people who live in flats use when they dry their clothes - they use their dryers every. single. time. they do their laundry.
Singaporeans, on the other hand, have learned that it's far cheaper to just hang it out of their windows to dry. Grab a bamboo pole, make sure your clothes are secure, then wait for Singapore's unforgiving sun to do its job. It helps that doing this helps with your electric bill too!
Celebrate Earth Day 2016
Keep 22nd April 2016 in mind - it’s Earth Day, an annual global event to support environmental conservation. The theme for this year's Earth Day is Trees For The Earth, where spotlight is firmly on the importance of trees. Pretty apt too, considering how the burning of trees is what causes Singapore's annual haze.
It’s never too late to join in, and make it a personal mission to start saving our planet through small actions. On top of what we can do from home, click here to find out more on how you can contribute to Earth Day!
Do the little things that count
We never take much notice in the little things we do, such as handing down textbooks, or hanging our clothes out to dry. But good news is, we’re actually saving the environment in more ways than we think, thanks to oh-so-Singaporean habits so ingrained in our DNA that we don't even think about them.
But just because things have always worked doesn't mean we should stick to them. Here's a painless way you can help out in conserving our environment and to #SavePaper painlessly: sign up for eStatements and reduce paper wastage! You will enjoy the benefits of paperless bank statements, and can access your bank details at any time on your phone - all without having to deal with messy paper statements on the floor!
Find out how to make the switch here, and show your support for Earth Day by changing your profile picture to green. Also, as another part of UOB's Earth Day initiatives, 400 lucky customers who sign up for eStatements will receive a surprise eco-friendly gift!
Let’s #SavePaper the smarter way this Earth Day, and find out more about UOB's green initiatives at www.uobsavespaper.com!
This post was brought to you by United Overseas Bank.